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WATCH LIVE: Flyers visit Penguins on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday night’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

It’s time to put up for shut up for the Philadelphia Flyers, who only need wins and a lot of help from those around them down the stretch here.

Complicating matters is the potential absence of Claude Giroux from the game. Flyers coach Scott Gordon said Sunday that Giroux is battling an illness. Philly has lost two in a row, including a 7-6 heartbreaker against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday when they coughed up a 5-2 second-period lead. The Flyers had been rolling prior to that, winning six of their past eight.

They’re now eight points back of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wildcard in the Eastern Conference.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is 6-2-0 in their past eight games but enter Sunday coming off a 5-1 loss against the St. Louis Blues 24 hours earlier, a defeat that ended their three-game winning streak.

The Penguins are sitting in the third spot in the Metropolitan, two points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes and four points back of the Washington Capitals for first place.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins
Where: PPG Paints Arena
When: Sunday, March 17, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Flyers-Penguins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

FLYERS
Claude Giroux — Nolan PatrickTravis Konecny
Oskar LindblomSean CouturierJakub Voracek
James van RiemsdykScott LaughtonMichael Raffl
Phil Varone — Corban Knight — Ryan Hartman
Ivan ProvorovTravis Sanheim
Shayne GostisbeherePhilippe Myers
Robert HaggRadko Gudas

Starting goalie: Carter Hart

PENGUINS
Jared McCannSidney CrosbyJake Guentzel
Teddy BluegerEvgeni MalkinPhil Kessel
Dominik SimonNick BjugstadPatric Hornqvist
Joseph Blandisi – Matt CullenGarrett Wilson

Jack JohnsonJustin Schultz
Brian Dumoulin – Zach Trotman
Marcus PetterssonErik Gudbranson

Starting goalie: Matt Murray

Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick (play-by-play) and Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa. Pre-game coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Liam McHugh alongside Mike Milbury and Keith Jones.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

NHL on NBCSN: Flyers in desperation mode vs. Penguins

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday night’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Philadelphia’s odds of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs hang by the thinnest of threads. Back-to-back regulation losses will do that to a team.

After beating Ottawa 3-2 on Monday, the Flyers put up a dud in a 5-2 loss against the Washington Capitals on Thursday and then choked — hard — the following night in a 7-6 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, a game where they led 5-2 in the second period before five unanswered goals unraveled them and perhaps their season.

“We’re going to have to move on and be ready to go for Sunday,” Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk, who had a hat trick in the Toronto game, said. “It gets to the point where you only have so many bullets left in the chamber. We have to have a pretty good run the rest of the way to put ourselves in a position.”

The Flyers made things interesting when they scored with the net empty and just over a minute left.

“We weren’t mature enough to keep our game where it needed to be and play better with the puck to not give them opportunities to come back,” Gudas said following the game. “That’s what came back to bite us.”

Claude Giroux will be featured on Star Sunday for the Flyers.

The Flyers captain had a hat trick of assists in Friday’s loss and has 76 points in 71 games this season. Giroux is having another fine year, and has six multi-point games in his past 10. He’s doing his job for the Flyers

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

The Penguins had their three-game winning streak halted by the impressive St. Louis Blues on Saturday as Jordan Binnington made 40 saves in a 5-1 win for the latter.

These things happen when your top line puts up a goose egg. The trio of Jared McCann, Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel combined for no points and a minus-nine rating in the game after having 14 points combined during their three-game heater. Their power-play was 0-for-4 after clipping along at 46 percent during the streak and Matt Murray was yanked after giving up four goals on 13 shots. The team allowed five goals total in their previous three games.

It wasn’t for lack of trying from the Pens. They put up 41 shots in an effort to solve ‘Winnington’. The Pens are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games and sit two points up on the Carolina Hurricanes for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Crosby will be the Pens’ featured player for Star Sunday.

Despite being held off the scoresheet on Saturday, he has 35 points in 24 games since the All-Star Break.

Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick (play-by-play) and Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa. Pre-game coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Liam McHugh alongside Mike Milbury and Keith Jones.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Malkin at 1,000; a star hiding in plain sight

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By Will Graves (AP Sports Writer)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The cameras crowd around Sidney Crosby‘s stall, parting only to let the Pittsburgh Penguins captain slip through and tug on a baseball cap before the lights flip on, the microphones close in and the questions come.

Fifteen feet away, Evgeni Malkin goes about his business quietly as part of his game-day routine, consulting with a staff member about a piece of equipment before ducking out, a star hiding in plain sight.

In another era or in another NHL city, it wouldn’t be this way. Yet this is Malkin’s lot, one the 32-year-old Russian and most recent member of 1,000-point club readily accepts. Drafted one spot behind fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin and one year ahead of Crosby – whom he’s partnered to win three Stanley Cups with over the last decade – Malkin is forever being nudged ever so slightly into the shadow of the two players who have defined the league for a generation.

”I think he likes it that way, to be honest with you,” said former teammate Brooks Orpik, now a defenseman for the Washington Capitals. ”He lets Sid do a lot more of the media stuff. And he kind of does his own thing and flies under the radar. I think he’s good with that part of it.”

Even if Malkin’s affable public reticence plays in stark contrast to the way he goes about doing his job, where the 2012 Hart Trophy winner, four-time All-Star and two-time scoring champion is a study in contrasts. Hulking yet nimble. Intimidating yet imaginative. A 6-foot-3, 195-pound anomaly of speed, power and skill who joined Ovechkin and Crosby, San Jose’s Joe Thornton and Toronto’s Patrick Marleau as the only active players to hit four digits when he collected two assists in Pittsburgh’s 5-3 victory over Washington on Tuesday night.

Malkin picked up secondary assists on Crosby’s second-period goal and Phil Kessel‘s third-period marker and celebrated by getting mobbed in the corner as the sellout crowd that included his parents and his wife rose to its feet in appreciation. Not bad for a kid from Magnitogorsk, Russia who never imagined he’d called America home.

”I grow up in small city and never think I play in NHL and score like, 1,000 points,” Malkin said.

Yet what once must have seemed impossible became inevitable as the years passed, the goals piled up and his reputation as one of the NHL’s most dynamic and daunting players blossomed.

”He makes it look easy, that’s the thing,” Crosby said. ”It’s so effortless for him.”

Crosby offered a sequence during Pittsburgh’s 4-2 win over Boston on Sunday night as proof. Malkin collected a pass at the Penguins’ blue line, raced by Bruins forward Peter Cehlarik, slipped the puck underneath Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo‘s flailing stick – spinning Carlo around completely in the process – then re-gathered it before ripping a wrist shot that soared over the crossbar. The whole thing took five seconds. Even now, 13 years into a partnership as productive as any in modern NHL history, Crosby couldn’t help but shake his head.

”You know how hard those things are to do?” Crosby said. ”And to see him do it the way he does is pretty special.”

And also a well-kept secret of sorts.

When the NHL released its top 100 players of all-time in conjunction with the league’s 100th anniversary in 2017, Crosby and Ovechkin’s names were on the list. Malkin’s was not, a fact he tried to play off by joking that if he won a couple of more Stanley Cups he could be No. 101. His friends and teammates didn’t take it quite so well, with Orpik calling the omission ”pretty outrageous.”

Maybe, but it’s also symbolic of Malkin’s unusual place in the NHL stratosphere. Famous, but not that famous. Well-respected. Just not quite as much as the two players he’s most closely associated with.

”I think of outside of Pittsburgh, I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves for the body of work that he’s put together in his decade-plus years as a Pittsburgh Penguin,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. ”When you look at what he’s accomplished, it’s remarkable.”

It’s just that he happens to share a dressing room with the league’s most recognizable name and the same homeland as the greatest Russian player ever. Malkin’s 1.178 career points per game is second-highest among active players. Crosby is first. Ovechkin is third.

Even on the night Malkin reached elite company, he couldn’t hold the spotlight for long. Less than three minutes after reaching 1,000 points, Malkin watched Ovechkin set up John Carlson for a goal that made Ovechkin the 48th player to reach 1,200 points. Maybe it’s fitting. Crosby’s combination of talent and relentlessness helped make him the face of the NHL, with Ovechkin long serving as Crosby’s emotional counterpoint, raw and primal. Malkin’s persona – much like his stats – falls somewhere in between.

”He’s Malkin,” Ovechkin said with shrug. ”Everybody’s different.”

And no less effective. Malkin plays with a natural ease, producing highlight-reel plays with the casualness of someone goofing around at the end of a morning skate. That casualness is a testament to both Malkin’s immense ability and one of the primary reasons his production can be taken for granted.

What Malkin does is incredibly difficult. The fact he doesn’t make it look that way is both a compliment and a curse.

”Sid’s the hardest-working guy I’ve ever played with and I think he has to do that to be at the level he’s at,” Orpik said. ”You can see Geno take a month off and come back and most guys are usually pretty rusty, he’s pretty much right at that level all the time.”

Well, maybe not all the time.

Malkin’s milestone moment came during an uncharacteristically uneven season. He didn’t score an even strength goal during November, his minus-23 rating heading into Tuesday ranked worst on the team and he’s shown a penchant for taking needless offensive zone penalties.

”It’s a tough year for me but every game, team play better and I think my game, it’s like back and I feel so much better every night,” Malkin said. ”My confidence back.”

Pittsburgh’s best chances at emerging from the crowded race for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference will rely heavily on Malkin being Malkin over the last three weeks of the regular season.

There have been signs of late, like his sizzling end-to-end rush against Boston or the way he quarterbacked a resurgent power play that scored twice against the Capitals. They are things that he’s done with astonishing regularity through the years, so much so that when he doesn’t do them the discussion centers on what he’s doing wrong rather than an appreciation for all the things he’s done right.

Those who get to witness his excellence on a day-to-day basis think it’s time for that perception to change. Malkin might not care. But they do.

”We all understand what he means to this team,” Sullivan said. ”He doesn’t get the credit he deserves outside of Pittsburgh in the hockey world. He’s been one of the elite players in this hockey league for more than a decade and he deserves more attention for that.”

GAME OF THE WEEK

The Wild and Stars are in the middle of a wide-open scramble for the final two playoff spots in the west. Their meeting in Minnesota on Thursday could start to provide some clarity.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

WATCH LIVE: Penguins host Capitals on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

This is the fourth and final meeting between these two rivals this season, with Pittsburgh winning two of the first three meetings. Each of the first three games were decided by one goal. Pittsburgh defeated Washington 7-6 in OT on Oct. 4 in Pittsburgh – the Penguins’ opening night of the season; Washington won at home 2-1 in November and Pittsburgh won 2-1 in Washington in December.

Washington is currently first in the Metro with 89 points. They lead the Islanders by two points and the Hurricanes and Penguins by six points each entering Tuesday night’s action. The Caps are searching for their fourth straight division title. The Caps have won four consecutive division titles only once before in franchise history, winning four straight Southeast Division crowns from 2007-08 to 2010-11.

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin recorded two points – a goal and an assist – in the team’s 5-3 win over Philadelphia last week to bring his career total to 1,199 points. But Ovechkin has now gone two straight games without a point and is still shy of 1,200 for his career. Ovechkin has 58 career points (35 goals, 23 assists) in 55 reg. season games vs Pittsburgh, so there is a great chance he reaches the milestone in this game.

The Penguins have won four of their last five games (4-1-0) and have earned points in seven of their last eight games overall (5-1-2) to move into the first Wild Card in the East. Pittsburgh is getting contributions all throughout their lineup right now, but one constant force has been goalie Matt Murray, who has started each of Pittsburgh’s last eight games. Murray is 5-1-2 in his last 8 starts with 2.22 GAA and .931 SV%. He made 39 saves on 41 shots in Sunday’s 4-2 win over Boston and has allowed two goals or fewer in five of those eight games.

Evgeni Malkin is stuck on 998 career points after being held without a point in Sunday’s win over Boston. Malkin is looking to become the fifth active player with 1,000 points.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins
Where: PPG Paints Arena
When: Tuesday, March 12, 6 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Capitals-Penguins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny KuznetsovTom Wilson
Jakub VranaNick BackstromT.J. Oshie
Carl HagelinLars EllerBrett Connolly
Andre BurakovskyNic DowdTravis Boyd

Michal KempnyJohn Carlson
Dmitry OrlovMatt Niskanen
Brooks OrpikNick Jensen

Starting goalie: Braden Holtby

PENGUINS
Jared McCannSidney CrosbyJake Guentzel
Teddy Blueger – Evgeni Malkin – Phil Kessel
Dominik SimonNick BjugstadPatric Hornqvist
Joseph Blandisi – Matt CullenGarrett Wilson

Jack JohnsonJustin Schultz
Brian Dumoulin – Zach Trotman
Marcus PetterssonErik Gudbranson

Starting goalie: Matt Murray

Gord Miller (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Pittsburgh. Pre-game coverage starts at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Paul Burmeister alongside Keith Jones and Anson Carter.

NHL on NBCSN: Bjugstad, McCann filling much-needed roles for Penguins

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has had to make a lot of trades over the past two years (probably more than he has wanted to make), and not all of them have worked out as planned. Two of the biggest moves involved Derick Brassard in an effort to address some of the depth the team lost following its Stanley Cup win in 2017. The first of those trades came just before the 2018 trade deadline when the Penguins, Ottawa Senators, and Vegas Golden Knights completed a massive and convoluted three-team trade to send Brassard to Pittsburgh, seemingly giving them the third-line center they needed to make another run at the Stanley Cup.

From the very beginning it never really worked.

Brassard struggled almost immediately upon arriving in Pittsburgh, never really fit in his new role, and there seemed to be frustration from both sides that it wasn’t working out. Less than a year after that deal, Brassard, Riley Sheahan, and a handful of draft picks were all sent to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad.

The early returns on that trade have been overwhelmingly positive for the Penguins, and are just one of the reasons they head into Tuesday’s game against the Washington Capitals (6 p.m. ET, NBCSN) on a 5-1-1 run over their past seven games and working to secure a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

McCann has made probably the most positive and significant contribution to the Penguins since the trade, already scoring eight goals in his first 19 games with the team, including a pair of two-goal efforts during this most recent seven-game stretch.

Bjugstad has added five goals in his first 19 games with the team.

Keep in mind that in Brassard’s 66 games with the Penguins, including playoffs, he scored only 13 goals. With the way McCann is going might match that total on his own before the playoffs begin this season.

Both he and Bjugstad have provided the complementary scoring that the Penguins have lacked, and struggled to replace, over most of the past two seasons.

Following the Penguins’ 4-2 win over the Bruins on Sunday night, a game where McCann scored two more goals, including a beautiful shorthanded goal, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was asked specifically why McCann and Bjugstad have excelled for the Penguins and why it never worked for Brassard. His answer was simple.

“They’re two real good players,” said Sullivan. “They’ve embraced the roles that we’ve put them in. When guys bring a certain level of enthusiasm and they embrace the challenge, that for me  is where it starts, with that attitude of wanting to make a difference and wanting to help this team win games. I think both of these guys are really excited to be Penguins. They’re excited about the roles that we’ve put them in.”

It is probably not a coincidence that Brassard has admitted on more than one occasion since the trade that it was difficult in Pittsburgh because they couldn’t find the right fit, and that he maybe lost some of the passion and emotion he had in his previous stops because of it.

Sometimes players need a fresh start to get that back and get into a role where everything feels comfortable and works.

Just like teams sometimes need a fresh start with different players.

While the Penguins obviously liked Bjugstad enough to trade for him and take on his $4 million salary cap hit through the end of the 2020-21 season, McCann always seemed to be the key addition because of his age (still only 22), contract (still one more year on an entry-level deal after this one), and his upside. So far they have both been significant additions for a team that needed a spark. They have also helped provide some essential secondary scoring, something they were not getting from the duo of Brassard and Sheahan.

MORE: PHT Power Rankings: Capitals playing like champs again

Gord Miller (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Pittsburgh. Pre-game coverage starts at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Paul Burmeister alongside Keith Jones and Anson Carter.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.